Title: The Champagne War
Author: Fiona McIntosh
Published: November 3rd 2020
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance
Rating: 4.5 stars
From the killing fields of Ypres to the sun-kissed vineyards of rural France, The Champagne War is a heart-stopping adventure about the true power of love and hope to light the way during war.
The heart-stopping new blockbuster by the bestselling author of The Diamond Hunter.
In the summer of 1914, vigneron Jerome Méa heads off to war, certain he’ll be home by Christmas. His new bride Sophie, a fifth generation and rebellious champenoise, is determined to ensure the forthcoming vintages will be testament to their love and the power of the people of Épernay, especially its strong women. But as the years drag on, authorities advise that Jerome is missing, considered dead.
When poison gas is first used in Belgium by the Germans, British chemist Charles Nash jumps to enlist. After he is injured, he is brought to Reims, where Sophie has helped to set up an underground hospital to care for the wounded. In the dark, ancient champagne cellars, their stirring emotions take them both by surprise.
While Sophie battles to keep her vineyard going through the bombings, a critical sugar shortage forces her to strike a dangerous bargain with an untrustworthy acquaintance – but nothing will test her courage more than the news that filters through to her about the fate of her heroic Jerome.
‘Whatever is happening in the world is happening to champagne, ‘he’d counselled.’
Fiona Mcntosh is the author of many sweeping historical sagas and The Champagne War signals a return for the much loved Australian storyteller. A tale of war, love, tragedy, survival, friendship, resilience, healing, morality and passion, The Champagne War is another truly unforgettable historical fiction title from Fiona McIntosh.
Opening in the pivotal year of 1914, The Champagne War introduces the character of Jerome Méa, a vigneron who wishes to do his part for his country by fighting in the Great War. When Jerome heads off to the war, he believes he will only be away from his home for a short time, but this is far from the case. Jerome’s new bride Sophie is a strong and passionate woman in her own right. As an enterprising champenoise, Sophie is confident that with all the hard work, passion and heart she has put into her upcoming vintages, the results will be more than pleasing. However, when war and tragedy engulfs France, Sophie faces uncertain times, Running alongside Sophie and Jerome’s story are the experiences of Charles Nash. A British chemist, Charles has enlisted in the Great War to serve his country. When Charles is injured on the battlefields he is sent to convalesce in an underground hospital, where Sophie is tending to be wounded. As Charles begins to heal under Sophie’s care, something sparks between these two lost souls. But Sophie faces her own private battles, in overcoming the loss of her beloved Jerome, deemed missing but most likely dead. Sophie also faces the fight of her life, in her attempts to keep her vineyard ticking over during a time of restrictions. This desperation to keep her vineyard from going under leads Sophie to make an ill-fated alliance with a dubious figure. Sophie must keep her wits about her if she is to survive this war and save her vineyard, while simultaneously dealing with a broken heart. The Champagne War moves through the troubled battlegrounds of the Great War, the bountiful vineyards of France and the makeshift hospitals of the wounded, in this remarkable tale of all-encompassing love.
The end of the year always heralds a new Fiona McIntosh release, which I welcome with open arms. The Champagne War is another magnificent historical masterpiece from the very talented Australian storyteller. This haunting tale of a love like no other, the ills of war, trials, tribulations, courage, honour and hope managed to occupy a big place in my heart.
The Great War is by far my most favoured historical time period. Fiona McIntosh brings to life this troubled, but also fascinating era to life through the pages of her new novel. Vividly recreated, McIntosh has placed a great deal of care and attention to her historical narrative. From the general feelings experienced by the French people during this time period, through to the absolute horrors of the battlefields of Ypres, Fiona McIntosh has her finger on the pulse. Carefully researched and delivered utilising McIntosh’s first-hand experience of walking on the very grounds of which her novel is set has ensured that The Champagne War is authentic, realistic and insightful. Heartbreaking and revealing, McIntosh paints an incredibly strong portrait of this time of great upheaval. Likewise, readers will be sure to find the vineyard and champagne making processes to be incredibly fascinating. I know I learnt a great deal about the art of champagne production. I must insist that you indulge in a side accompaniment of a glass of bubbly while reading this novel!
Leading the direction of McIntosh’s novel are a handful of compelling leads. From the principal female protagonist Sophie, to her husband Jerome, his scheming brother and the British chemist come injured solider Charles, McIntosh has filled her new novel with an excellent cast. The periphery characters are rendered just as well, I really loved the influence of the hardworking women of the vineyard and an unexpected ally during Charles’ war experiences. The villain of this tale was a particularly nasty one and I was compelled to keep turning the pages of The Champagne War to see if this figure would get his just desserts!
There are themes of love, passion, endurance, loyalty, sacrifice, determination, friendship, extortion, lies, secrecy, trauma, righteousness and fate that all bubble to the surface during the progression of The Champagne War. Overarching themes of love and hope are what truly power this novel, building momentum in the form of tangled hearts, lost passions and hard life choices. The road to happiness and true love does not come easy in The Champagne War. The two romantic storylines that develop during the course of The Champagne War had me internally conflicted. For those who end up reading The Champagne War, I would love to hear your own thoughts on the final turn of events, I’m not sure the right choice was made in my eyes!
Impeccably researched and tended to with plenty of writer’s passion, The Champagne War symbolises a story of great hope. Unearthing the tragedies of war, the pressures placed on the everyday French people during trying times and the conflicting choices made during this time of uncertainty, The Champagne War is another prized piece from Fiona McIntosh.
The Champagne War by Fiona McIntosh was published on 3rd November 2020 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Champagne War, Fiona McIntosh, visit here.
*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Champagne War is book #115 the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge